By Julio Espinoza, Staff Writer
Most of us are involved in a frantic race: taking classes, taking care of personal matters and applying for internships. But the most important application for many of us right now must be the Free Application for Student Aid for the academic year of 2017-2018.
The Obama Administration changed the guidelines of FAFSA enrollment. FAFSA was available for enrollment as early as October 1st of this year. If you are a U.S. citizen and need loans for tuition and cost of living expenses, you should consider applying for FAFSA as soon as possible to ensure being awarded the maximum amount possible. This will be the first time that students can apply in fall for an upcoming spring-summer and fall-winter semester using the same IRS W2 form for their 2016 FAFSA application. That means that some of us will have our FAFSA 2016 and 2017 being granted on the basis of a 2015 W2, which is fine for this time. Next October 2017, students will be able to apply using their 2016 W2.
FAFSA is a great lending resource to supplement your assets and sometimes when you qualify you can also have access to federal grants depending on your economic need calculated through the Expected Family Contribution, which is the minimum amount the student is expected to contribute toward the cost of higher education. Most of the time, FAFSA covers an average of $20,000 per year resulting in the student being responsible for the rest of the tuition. FAFSA loans are available to grad students in unsubsidized Stafford loans and Graduate PLUS loans with different interest rates. The applicant needs to pass a credit background check to take out a PLUS loan, and those with a bankruptcy or an account in collections may be denied. Also applicants with drug possession charges will be automatically denied this year.
If you are applying for FAFSA this time, remember to fill out the electronic form completely and accurately; do not lie on taxes, assets or immigration status. The Departments of Education, Treasury and Homeland Security are now sharing your IRS and immigration status in real time. This makes things easier as you only need to enter your social security number and import your tax information to populate your FAFSA application. The results on the application will come up soon (in a day or two), but your award will be disbursed in January 2017. So apply, sit tight and good luck in getting the most aid possible.